Movie moments 

Our critics pick their top 10s

To close out the end of the year, the Indy asked its regular film critics—Nicole Panter, Skylar Browning and Scott Renshaw—to compile lists of their 10 favorite movies of the year. (One regular contributor, Nick Davis, declined to participate, since he’s only resumed reviewing in the last three months of the year.) Each critic’s list is presented alphabetically, and includes brief comments—either defending or adding to their top 10—to round out the package.

In our judges’ opinion, documentaries hit it big this year—from mainstream efforts like Murderball and Mad Hot Ballroom to lesser-known gems like Be Here to Love Me and Cowboy del Amor (both of which have been recently announced as part of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February). And if it’s diversity you crave, note that not a single film made all three lists; A History of Violence, Brokeback Mountain (which has yet to open in Missoula), The Aristocrats, Capote and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are the only films to make even two. So, let the debates begin.

Skylar Browning

•The 40-Year-Old Virgin
•A History of Violence
•The Aristocrats
•Good Night, and Good Luck
•Nobody Knows
•Layer Cake
•Mad Hot Ballroom

Take two: While many of these films received the sort of buzz and critical attention normally associated with year’s-best lists, a few seemed to fly frustratingly under the radar. Nobody Knows is a haunting Japanese drama based on the true story of four young siblings left to fend for themselves when their mother leaves with little warning—it’s the sort of slow, effective film that sinks in and suffocates the longer the ordeal goes on. Murderball received a ton of festival buzz for its headfirst depiction of quadriplegic rugby players, but failed to resonate at the box office, and Britain’s Layer Cake was a hit across the pond, marked as the coming out of future 007 Daniel Craig, but the intelligent crime thriller didn’t sway American audiences. All three are now available on DVD and worth a second look.

One other film deserves a mention here, despite falling just short of the top 10: A Very Long Engagement is technically a 2004 release, but this outstanding foreign drama by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) didn’t get widely released in the states—never mind Missoula—until early 2005.

Nicole Panter

•The Aristocrats
•Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt
•Brokeback Mountain
•The Constant Gardener
•Cowboy del Amor
•Grizzly Man
•Mysterious Skin
•The Squid & the Whale

Take two: As always, there were good movies and bad movies in theaters this year, but some of the best cinema—again—could be found weekly on cable channel HBO. The complex, poetic, intelligent and beautifully written western series “Deadwood” provided some of the best cinematic moments to be found on screens anywhere. The same goes for the last season (RIP) of another HBO series, “Six Feet Under,” which gave its audience the gift of compelling, engaging character development along with real closure in the last episode. And I can’t wait for “The Sopranos” to reappear in ’06.

Scott Renshaw

•The 40-Year-Old Virgin
•A History of Violence
•Brokeback Mountain
•King Kong
•Kung Fu Hustle
•The Matador
•Mr. & Mrs. Smith
•Tony Takitani

Take two: Every year I think the same thing: This is the list that will forever obliterate whatever shreds of credibility I have left. Sure, I included a documentary (the splendid, don’t-call-it-inspirational Murderball) and subtitled films (the lovely and mournful Tony Takitani and the inspired Kung Fu Hustle). And yes, plenty of other critics have lauded Brokeback Mountain and A History of Violence, a pair of knockouts with as much style as substance. But will all that matter if—gasp!—Hollywood makes an appearance in a list of favorites? Whatever will Jonathan Rosenbaum, Armond White and other critical representatives of the “if it makes a buck, it must suck” crowd say?

Genre fare, however, continues to enjoy a renaissance in American moviemaking, and it would be churlish to reject big-ticket flicks just because they had the audacity to be as satisfying as they were well-publicized. King Kong is that good, every one of its thrilling 187 minutes worth the ride. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is that funny—perhaps nobody’s idea of smooth visual moviemaking, but surprisingly sweet along with its terrific gags. And Mr. & Mrs. Smith—well, I seem to be about the only one to consider it both a swell piece of action and a touching study of where relationships go wrong.

So credibility, schmedibility. I’ll settle for celebrating anything that hits me in that memorable way, be it in the head, heart, gut or funny bone.

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